Fellini or the amazing power of opposites
Fellini, the genius from the Apennines, warned us even with his first films that he intended to research the intimate (psychological and moral) side of his heroes. He matured as a filmmaker at the time of the emergence of neorealist poetics, having taken part in the style’s creation (at first as co-screenwriter and assistant director to the great Roberto Rossellini). In his debut feature film, about traveling actors, that he made together with Albert Lattuad in 1950, Lights of Variety, he questions the unfulfilled dreams of his characters - people from the margins of society: village folk, poor people from the gutter, etc... In his film he White Sheik (1952) even the great Rome shatters certain illusions of a young married couple that arrived to the capital to take part in its myths. In his turning-point film The Young and the Passionate (1953) in one of the four main characters we recognize the author’s alter ego, a person who, unlike his friends, will manage to escape the misery of a province. Afterwards follows the disturbing The Road (1954) with the gentle and helpless maid Gelsomina and the primitive and cruel circus performer Zampano. Life’s harshness is apparent also in the realist drama The Swindlers (1955). In Nights of Cabiria from 1957, we meet the severely mistreated but also deeply interesting and fragile street prostitute Cabiria that symbolizes the indestructible life optimism.
Fellini’s films from this first period are full of Christian questions of self-sacrifice, repentance and (mystical) redemption. Experts called this phase in the evolution of Italian neorealism, on which Fellini had a great impact, neorealism of the soul.
His film The Sweet Life (1960) summarizes the former and anticipates the next phase; the film’s mosaic structure (influenced by the modernist tendencies of the time) lost its classic narration and the author focuses together with an individual searching for its own identity also on the decadent world of plenty and estrangement, which impudently relativizes and even negates basic moral principles. Fellini’s central, partly autobiographical, (master) piece 8 1/2 (1963) shows us a personal and professional crisis of a film director who cannot communicate with his surroundings (starring Marcello Mastroianni as the author’s alter ego). As dr. Peterlić claimed “by questioning the process of film creation”, the author surprises us with his masterly skills when he imbues the mosaic-like structure of his film (as well as his entire opus) with completely opposite elements - realistic and stylized, lyric and grotesque, present and past, truth and fictional, “simple” and baroque… This film won forty most prominent international film awards, including an Oscar. His next films are a variation of his previous thematic and stylistic achievements. With his film Juliet of the Spirits (1965) the author stops the series of just black and white films and portrays a heroine that tries to reach her own roots struggling through reality and the imaginary. In Satyricon (1969) he evokes the debauchery of old Rome in order to draw a parallel with the looseness or morals in the contemporary world. In his next film The Clowns (1970) Fellini nostalgically evokes circus artistry using the hybrid method of quasi-television reportage, parodies the poetics of cinéma-vérité and the rhetoric of cinema directe. In Rome (1972) once again he portrays Rome and especially its urban shallowness. In Amarcord (1973), devoted to his hometown of Rmini in 1930s, Fellini’s nostalgia is even more apparent. Casanova (1976) presents his sarcastic view of the famous Venetian lover. In Orchestra Rehearsal (1978) he plays with the opposites of “television documentarism and the phantasmagoria of a fairy tale” (through the portrayal of a genesis of the individual, social and artistic chaos) and provides us with a parabola of an emergence of a totalitarian society. In the film City of Women (1979) he shows us a horrified professor erotomaniac who dreams that he is in a hotel in which a feminist congress takes place. When he wakes up a woman from his dream enters his compartment.
Indeed Federico Fellini belongs to the leading Italian author quintet (Rossellini, Visconti, De Sica, Antonioni), as well as takes part in the highest achievements of international film. (Petar Krelja)